By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –
Virginia Woolf has long been considered one of the greatest writers of all time. Her explorations on the nature of reality have influenced countless artists who dare to dream big. She has also served as an inspiration for numerous writers, including Michael Cunningham (who wrote The Hours) and Edward Albee. Albee might have wanted to parody the famous Disney song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”, but his play became a landmark in contemporary American theater, and its subsequent film adaptation revolutionized the film industry. The 1966 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a timeless film even though it is a bit tough to sit through because of the pain and chaos that the characters inflict upon each other on screen.
The film contains four of the greatest performances ever captured on film. Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis both won Academy Awards for their work, while Richard Burton and George Segal received nominations that were very deserving. Taylor was able to make a boisterous woman very vulnerable during the film’s climax, while Dennis was able to make her mousy character very quirky and delusional within a film filled with dysfunctional characters. Historically, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? directly impacted cinematic history by prompting film censors to create a prototype of a film rating system, which eventually led to the current rating system have to today, which includes “PG” and “R.” It is no surprise that this film is very special and bold because of its controversial subject matter.
The only complaint that I have about this film is that some of its Academy Award victories are a bit questionable. This film is the only film in cinematic history to receive nominations in every category that it was eligible for, and it received awards for “Best Art Direction” and “Best Costume Design.” It seems a bit odd that the film would win these awards because the film basically contains two sets (George and Martha’s home and the roadside stop they visit halfway into the film) and ordinary clothes.
An interesting piece of movie trivia, though, is that the bookshelves in George and Martha’s home include novels by Virginia Woolf. A similar criticism has also applied to Damien Chazelle’s musical sensation La La Land because Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were mostly wearing normal clothes in that particular film in contrast to other films that have won in those two categories, like My Fair Lady (1964) and Shakespeare in Love (1998). Nevertheless, it’s clear the Academy simply adored this film because of the accolades that they gave to it, and it is still one of the most important films ever made.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is not a movie for everyone. It is more suitable for mature audiences, and it could be rough watching George, Martha, Nick, and Honey argue with each other during a so-called “night of fun and games.” George and Martha might cordially invite guests into their home late at night, but audiences need to prepare themselves for the secrets hidden behind their closed doors. Ultimately, who really is afraid of Virginia Woolf? Maybe moviegoers not able to cope with the gritty reality of this very dark black-and-white film.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Martha imitates the famous Bette Davis line “What a dump!” within the first few minutes of the film
Take a Drink: every time Honey makes references to dancing, especially whenever she exclaims “I dance like the wind!”
Do a Shot: anytime any of the characters ask the infamous question, “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?”